Social Connectedness Winner / 2013

CicLAvia: Get Connected LA

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by CicLAvia

CicLAvia is the largest cost-free and car-free event in the United States and is nothing short of a revolutionary approach to helping Angelenos get connected to LA and to one another. During CicLAvia, the streets are “owned” by the pedestrians and cyclists who make creative use of this temporary outdoor space in ways that promote active transportation, the arts, improve public health and protect the environment. CicLAvia enables people who are perfect strangers, of all ethnicities, from diverse geographic points, with disparate income and educational levels, to come together and communicate with each other across every social border and boundary.

Since October 2010 there have been five CicLAvia events that have cumulatively opened up to 50 miles of streets in the heart of downtown Los Angeles and connected approximately 600,000 people. On Sunday April 21, 2013, CicLAvia – To The Sea will connect historic downtown LA with Venice Beach, mostly along Venice Boulevard. This herculean feat transforms 15 miles of car-centric asphalt into a temporary shared public activity space. It inspires real social connectedness amongst more than 150,000 participants through meaningful encounters with their fellow Angelenos.

Inspired by Ciclovía, the original weekly street closure event in Bogotá, Colombia, CicLAvia aspires to become a monthly event and an integral part of a transit rich, culturally engaged, and economically thriving future LA.

While it is often referred to as “the bike event,” CicLAvia’s mission and accomplishments reach far beyond the goal of increasing bicycle ridership in Los Angeles for a few hours on a given Sunday. By temporarily increasing public space and recreational opportunities for participants, CicLAvia highlights the necessity for a built environment that can permanently provide such amenities. The ease with which participants traverse the streets during CicLAvia underscores the possibility of a more pedestrian and bike friendly Southern California – a multi-nodal region whose diverse and often isolated communities and populations desperately need the strengthened connections that CicLAvia brings. CicLAvia participants are often transformed into advocates for the development of such a sustainable region - growing aware of the possibilities for a healthier and more connected lifestyle as they easily move from one neighborhood to the next along the route.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

On 10/10/10, CicLAvia took place for the first time in Los Angeles and was enjoyed by an astounding number of participants: an estimated 100,000. From 10:00am to 3:00pm, 7.5 miles of roadways were temporarily closed to car traffic and open for recreational purposes. From Boyle Heights to Downtown, MacArthur Park to East Hollywood, families, pedestrians, cyclists, joggers, skateboarders, and rollerbladers rediscovered the roadways and neighborhoods that too often go unnoticed in a car.

Since the pilot event, CicLAvia has taken place four additional times - each with successively larger audiences and continued widespread community and political support. Approximately 100,000 to 150,000 participants enjoy each CicLAvia event – and hundreds of thousands more learn about it through an impressive marketing/pr and social media campaign.

On October 9, 2011, the route expanded from 7.5 miles to 10 miles – traveling north to El Pueblo de Los Angeles and south to the African American Firefighter’s Museum. The most recent CicLAvia event took place on October 7, 2012 and extended the route to Chinatown and Exposition Park marking the fifth incarnation in less than two years – an impressive feat in the nation’s “car capital”.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Neighborhood Councils, civic organizations, public and private schools, small and large businesses, hospitals, universities, nonprofit agencies, families, groups of friends, artists and individuals are all partners with CicLAvia in creating the “shared experience” unique to each event.

Multiple departments in the Los Angeles City Mayor’s office, members of LA City Council, DOT, LAPD, LAFD, and the Bureau of Street Services provide direct and critical services to produce each event. Currently METRO is providing strategic funding and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition organizes over 400 volunteers for each CicLAvia.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

The benefits of CicLAvia are both immediate and long-term. While the program’s success is dependent on the number of individuals that take part in each event, it is also measured by the growing list of strategic partnerships that help to ensure the program’s long-term sustainability and geographic reach. Ultimately, CicLAvia has the potential to be a series of rotating routes throughout the whole of Los Angeles County – a program that is flawlessly integrated into the complex web of city and county governments. We envision a CicLAvia taking place on a monthly basis with each route associated with a different set of neighborhoods and their own time of the year (e.g. June is CicLAvia - Iconic Wilshire Boulevard, October is host to the "traditional" CicLAvia - Heart of LA route, etc.) True success will come when we accomplish this impressive feat.

A less tangible measure of success is the shift in public perception towards Los Angeles as a walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented region. With this shift in perception comes the realization that Los Angeles can be a more seamlessly interconnected place – a more sustainable and livable region. The increasing demand for CicLAvia events across the county, in addition to the huge crowds that have taken part in the first five CicLAvias, is representative of this shift already in motion. Just as exciting, however, is the growing political support from across the County which is already translating into improved public policies on the topics of public health, public space, economic and community development, and pedestrian, bicycle and public transit infrastructure.

One impressive indication of CicLAvia’s continued success is that the Los Angeles Police Department has reported no major incidents or arrests. Participants are not only enjoying their city in a new way, but they are doing it with consideration and responsibility.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Considered the most park-poor major city in the United States, Los Angeles has a major challenge in finding space for people to share positive interactions. For many neighborhoods – particularly in L.A.’s communities of color – public park space is scant or non-existent. CicLAvia temporarily eases this problem and points to a solution by providing an ad hoc public space for such neighborhoods - a newfound common ground on which to congregate and enjoy this democratic, outdoor activity.

As with any successful public space, CicLAvia routes offer participants diverse reasons to participate. Through CicLAvia’s organic growth, participants continually discover new purposes for converging along the route – whether one’s objective is to bike, stroll, picnic, or people-watch. This temporary public space points out the historic emphasis on private space in LA while simultaneously shifting our focus to the need for more public places and positive events throughout the city where all populations can connect as a community.

CicLAvia is a source of civic pride for the communities it traverses, the city as a whole as well as the entire region. By connecting dozens of diverse city neighborhoods, CicLAvia encourages residents to explore resources within and beyond their own insular territory.

Long-term effects of CicLAvia not only include increased CicLAvia events throughout the year and an expansion of the program into all corners of Los Angeles County, but a shift in public perception of Los Angeles as a car-centric metropolis. With a focus on improved public health, increased public space, enhanced community and economic development and the promotion of bicycle, pedestrian and public transportation advocacy, CicLAvia advocates for strengthened public policy in each of these areas. As a result, CicLAvia helps to transform Los Angeles County into a region that is more focused on smart growth, sustainable living and community development.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

CicLAvia envisions a 2050 in which an expansive network of vibrant public spaces, new infrastructure and free events allow Angelenos to seamlessly connect with the city’s diverse communities and populations. The heightened sense of social connectedness created by universal access to public spaces and gatherings will yield a significant increase in civic engagement - more Angelenos will vote, volunteer and play an active role in their communities.